Tramper Tracey Hall, 38, is heading to Machu Picchu to fundraise for multiple sclerosis. She talked to George Driver about how tramping has helped her manage the disease
How did you discover you have multiple sclerosis?
Two years ago, I lost vision in my left eye and I went in for an MRI and found I had lesions on my optic nerve. Then about two weeks later I had another relapse and had tingling and numbness in my left side. When that happened, we put two and two together and I had a lumbar puncture and was diagnosed.
What have been your symptoms?
I’ve had four relapses since I was diagnosed, ranging from losing feeling and getting numbness down the left side of my body, to losing my eyesight and losing control of the muscles in my throat – I couldn’t drink or swallow for almost two weeks once. I had a massive relapse in February and lost all of the feeling in my right leg and I ended up in a wheelchair. I’ve been through painful rehabilitation to get muscle movement going again. My current symptoms are fatigue, pain and weakness and I think I’m always going to live with that.
What has helped you to manage your symptoms?
I’m a big outdoors person and I find the bush is so healing. I used to do a lot of tramping, in Pureora Forest Park, the Ruahines and Kawekas, but since my last relapse I have been struggling – it has done permanent damage in my right leg. It hasn’t stopped me, but it has slowed me down. But even just going camping or heading on day walks is great. The bush is such a natural healer for the mind, body and soul. Getting back into the bush is a big part of what keeps me going.
You are walking to Machu Picchu next April. Why have you set this goal?
Each year the Mastering Mountains Charitable Trust gives two expedition grants to help people with multiple sclerosis to get outdoors and achieve a goal. I’ve always wanted to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and applied and received the inaugural grant. It’s such a special place with a rich history. The trail involves climbing up to 4200m and the idea of being there with the clouds and everything below gives me goosebumps. But it’s going to be quite strenuous.
I’ll be fundraising for the Mastering Mountains trust, so the more I can raise, the more other people can benefit from similar opportunities.
How have you trained for the trek?
In September, I walked 14km to the top of Wharite Peak (920m) in the Ruahine Range and raised $8500 for the Central Districts branch of the MS Society. When I had my last relapse, they were there for me whenever I needed them. I want to give back while I can.
I’ve also been doing rehabilitation at Massey University’s exercise clinic, doing stair climbing exercises and working on my diet. But just getting into the bush is a huge drive. I love being in nature and I’m missing it. That’s a big part of what keeps me going.
My next mission is to walk to Waiopehu Hut in Tararua Forest Park with my son.
Do you have any goals after Machu Picchu?
I’d love to run a marathon. I ran a half marathon in Melbourne last October. I don’t know when, or if, I’ll have another relapse. Chances are I will, so I’ve got get out and grab the bull by the horns.